“It was a heart-rending moment for Mr. and Mrs. Young, followed by anxious hours during which Rodger had been taken to the hospital, still unconscious. But Rodger was a kid with lots of heart, and as long as there was life, there was hope.
A flicker of movement caught Mr. and Mrs. Young’s attention and they looked quickly into the face of their son. A sparkle of light, reflected from the overhead lights, beamed back as one eye slowly opened. then the other eye opened, and Rodger was back. Moments later his weak voice speaking reassuring words to his parents brought a flood of relief. The doctor came in, found Rodger now fully conscious and talking to his parents. He pronounced the young man recovered, and soon Rodger was on his way home to be rejoined with his brothers and sister.
In the months that followed Rodger’s basketball injury, Mr. and Mrs. Young’s sense of relief at his recovery was beginning to look somewhat premature. Fuzz’s fall to the hard floor had caused damage they couldn’t have anticipated, nor could the medical equipment of the late 1930s detect. But through the following spring and summer, the senses began to loose their keenness, his hearing worsening with each passing week. His eyes also began to fail, and soon he was wearing thick eye glasses. In the fall he returned to high school, a sophomore, but it was not destined to be a good year for Rodger Young. He had trouble hearing the lessons, or seeing the drawings on the chalkboard. As a result, his grades began slipping, taking with them any hope of graduation. In the middle of the year, Rodger left high school. If he could not complete his studies successfully he felt he might at least take a job in a local factory to help support the Young family. That was the way of Rodger Young, looking beyond his own inabilities or handicaps, with a concern for others. In 1939, Rodger and his older brother Webster joined the Ohio National Guard.
It was not so much a matter of patriotism that prompted the decision of the two boys, as it was a matter of practicality. The United States was at peace, the service in the guard was a simple matter of part-time soldiering that could provide a little extra income. By this time Rodger had resigned himself to the fact that his sight and hearing was growing increasingly worse, and the young man would probably never have passed a physical in the regular army. But in the National Guard he found a welcome opportunity to serve, and to help support his family.
The following year, his 148th Regiment was federalized, and with the mobilization following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rodger was a full-time soldier. At 5’2” tall and weighing 125 pounds, he was one of the smallest soldiers in the Army. Still, he wore his uniform with pride, and was quick to pose for a photo with his father and two brothers on a return home.
Despite his small size, his physical problems, and his thick glasses, Rodger managed to hide just how serious his hearing and sight problems were. He was a good soldier, training hard and with the same big heart that had always enabled him to achieve beyond what others might have expected, given his stature and appearance. In 1942, the 37th Infantry Division (Ohio National Guard) was sent to Camp Shelby in Mississippi to train for combat. Rodger and Webster went together, the older brother now married and renting an apartment near the post for his young wife.
As a young National Guard private, Rodger Young pushed himself to achieve in such manner that his determination and enthusiasm could be seen by all. At Camp Shelby, that same drive pushed him to new levels, earning him the respect of all the officers, NCOs, and other enlisted men.
One of the proudest moments in the life of Rodger Young was the day his dedication was recognized with a promotion. Three chevrons were pinned to the sleeved of Rodger Young’s uniform, and the kid who was one of the most unlikely soldiers, was now a sergeant in the United States Army.
Excitedly, he wrote home to share the wonderful news with his parents.